THE new Constitution provides a reasonable framework for the country to put in place functional and effective provincial, metropolitan and local government structures.
NO HOLDS BARRED WITH DUMISANI NKOMO
There is a need for the country to move swiftly to ensure that the three tiers of government created by the new Constitution work effectively and efficiently bringing the desired output of good governance, development, equitable distribution of resources and citizen participation in decision-making processes.
The new Constitution, for the first time in the history of Zimbabwe, acknowledges three tiers of government namely national government, provincial and metropolitan government and local government with the later consisting of urban and rural councils.
It is, however, necessary to unpack the roles, responsibilities and parameters of these different tiers of government to avoid duplication, confusion, bureaucracy and ultimately policy inertia.
It is my belief that if these three tiers of government, especially provincial and local government, function effectively this will lead to good governance and ultimately socioeconomic development of various regions, provinces and districts, especially areas which have been subject to historic marginalisation such as the Midlands, Matabeleland, Masvingo and parts of Manicaland.
The new Constitution attempts to capture good governance as reflected by a State “that adopts and implements policies and legislation to develop efficiency, competence, accountability, transparency, personal integrity and financial probity in the government at every level and in every public institution”.
Good governance should not be an abstract academic concept, but that which delivers bread and butter to the people through the provision of basic services like education, health, water, electricity as well as access to resources. Some of these are entrenched in Chapter 4 of the new Constitution as socioeconomic rights.
Meaningful local development and empowerment of local communities can only take place if the sociopolitical architecture at provincial and local level gives expression to these ideals and aspirations through the existence of enabling participatory, decision-making structures, policies and laws. This is captured brilliantly in Chapter 2,8 of the new Constitution, which compels all State institutions at every level to ensure:
Local communities benefit from local resources in their areas
Promotion of self-reliance and private initiative
Bringing about balanced development of different areas of Zimbabwe
Rectifying imbalances resulting from past policies and practices.
A central government and State architecture that ensures the above-mentioned constitutional principles are adhered to will provide a sound framework for provincial/metropolitan councils and local councils to function.
It is an emerging reality that most Zimbabweans, even those who should be in the know, have no idea about the composition, structure and powers of the new provincial councils or metropolitan councils as is the case with Bulawayo and Harare.
Chapter 14 of the new Constitution speaks to this providing for devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities to appropriate levels.
While some might not like the word devolution, it is not really the semantics that matter, but the level to which there is statutory provision of placement of power from one level of government to another. Broadly the Constitution defines the objects of devolution of government powers to provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities as:
Giving powers of local governance to the people and enhancing their participation in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions that affect them.
Promoting democratic, effective, transparent, accountable and coherent government
Recognising the right of local communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development
Ensuring the equitable sharing of local and national resources
Transferring responsibilities and resources from the national government in order to establish a sound financial base for each provincial and metropolitan and local authority.
Surely which Zimbabwean in her or his right frame of mind would be opposed to any of these objectives?
No political party worth its salt can deny Zimbabweans at the local level the right to participate in decision-making and development processes which enable them to be masters of their own destiny. Those who claim to champion empowerment, but do not believe in empowering local communities are in ideological internal conflict and confusion.
Once a clear legislative framework is in place, Zimbabwe can work towards sustainable socioeconomic development predicated on sound local democracy, good service delivery and local development.
Dumisani Nkomo is an activist and opinion leader